City of Haleyville preparing for severe weather threat

HALEYVILLE - Surrounded by city department heads and the heads of key entities within Haleyville Friday morning, Mayor Ken Sunseri went over final preparation plans for the possibility of severe weather Saturday.

According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, severe storms are likely on Saturday in Alabama, with the threat beginning as early as 9 a.m. and ending sometime within the afternoon or early evening.  Threats include damaging winds up to 70 mph and tornadoes, some of which could be strong.

Winds will increase ahead of the storm system on Saturday.  Winds are expected to gust to 35 mph after midnight. Wind gusts up to 40 mph are possible outside of thunderstorm activity during the morning and afternoon.  A Wind Advisory has been issued for the area for Saturday.

Rainfall of 1 to 2-plus inches, with locally higher amounts, will occur Friday into Saturday. This may aggravate river levels or cause some localized flooding where the heaviest rainfall rates occur.

While Sunseri is concerned about tornadoes, he is also very concerned about the threat of straight line winds, which can cause significant damage over wide areas.

"High winds are just as bad as a tornado,"  Sunseri said.

Sunseri was informed by the street and fire departments that all of the city's storm shelters were inspected Thursday and are ready to be opened if and/or when a Tornado Watch is issued.  It is the policy of the City of Haleyville to open all storm shelters when a Tornado Watch is issued and to keep the shelters open until the Watch is lifted or until the city is notified that there is no longer any possible threat of tornadic activity.

Sunseri had all city department heads, as well as leaders from Lakeland Community Hospital and Alabama Power, tell him how they are prepared for the threat.  Lakeland COO Ashley Pool noted that the hospital's generators  are ready in case of any power outage.  Pool noted that the hospital's beds are full at the moment, but that the hospital would be prepared to open up beds in other areas of the hospital, if needed.

Alabama Power Business Manager Melinda Weaver noted that they are logistically prepared for the severe weather threat.  Gaston Large, engineering supervisor for Alabama Power, told Sunseri and department heads that all area crews are prepared and would be involved in a storm call with Alabama Power during the afternoon.  Both assured the city that personnel would be ready to roll if the city experiences any power outages due to the weather.

Sunseri thanked city employees for having all of the storm shelters open to the public so quickly during the last severe weather threat.  All shelters were open within 15 minutes of the Tornado Watch being issued, Sunseri noted.  He stressed to everyone in the room that communicating with one another is key.

"The situation is real,"  Sunseri stated.  "Everyone is on edge.  Everybody needs to be really alert.  We prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

A list of storm shelters throughout Winston County and Bear Creek, along with their locations, is available under the Resource Guide.